Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.
It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.
Below is a sample version of this entry that shows how conflict can deepen your story, make a character’s goals more difficult to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome what stands in their way.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Conflict: Being Forced to Marry
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control
An arranged marriage where one or both parties do not consent
A strategic match (for pedigree, wealth, power, politics)
Because of an unplanned pregnancy…
In a situation like this, there really are no minor complications, but there are immediate complications and then ongoing or escalated complications. Immediate ones might be:
Having to move
Having to give up certain interests, past times, and recreational activities
Having to leave home or one’s comfort zone…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being forced to embrace a new way of life, new beliefs, or religious practices
Living in fear of what is to come (due to a lack of control, a violence spouse, civil unrest, sexual expectations, new obligations and expectations, being in the public eye, etc.)
Depression at the direction their life has taken (especially over what was lost)…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Being torn between what they want for themselves and what family members want or need (duty)
Choosing the good of the many over the good of the few when it means personal sacrifice
Having no good options…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected:
Family and loved ones who are in danger if the character doesn’t comply, people they are responsible for (a community, a country, a group), innocent people caught in the crossfire, people who stand against the decision (and against their new family)
Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, defeat…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, confrontational, disloyal, disrespectful, irresponsible, jealous…
Discovering a new purpose within a tough situation
Discovering one is resilient
Building new friendships and community in the new situation that they may never have otherwise known…
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.
Use Conflict To Transform Your Story
Readers have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting books, so make it easy for them to choose yours. Conflict will help you deliver a fresh story premise every time, drawing readers in through meaningful challenges that reveal a character’s innermost needs, fears, weaknesses, and strengths.
The Conflict Thesaurus is part of the largest, fiction-specific Description Database available. Access it here.
New to One Stop for Writers? Swing by and check out our video walkthrough, because it’s time to change the writing game.
The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles
This thesaurus is also in book form, a two-volume set. Each volume contains expert advice on how to use conflict to improve your story, and a plethora of conflict scenarios to provide ideas on how to best challenge your characters.
Each volume is a unique gateway into conflict, but looks at this important element from different angles. Together, they profile 225 conflict scenarios.
Find out more about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
“Many of the conflicts listed were ones I had never even thought of including in a story…” ~ Annie Lima
“Angela and Becca have done it again—and left no conflict stone unturned…” ~Jarm Boccio
“Ackerman-Puglisi’s thesaurus is so much more than just a “thesaurus”. It’s a tutor, a guide, and a writing mentor all crammed into one…” ~ Sacha Black
This book is amazing; another priceless resource…” ~ Brandi MacCurdy
Visit Goodreads to read more reviews about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Ruchama Burrell says
What if the hero finally overcomes the pressure to marry and in order to marry someone else and that is the HEA? Any suggestions about the process?
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
That would be the arc of your story, so it would depend on what the factors were keeping your character from marrying the one they love instead of the one they are being forced to. So whatever that is (danger, family pressure, etc) you need to show your character overcome this adversity or solve the problems/circumstances standing in the way.
Barbara Parker says
Good article. Thanks